Katherine the Sorely Missed asked me to post this. The rest is hers, though I second it.
This is probably the most important post I've ever written. Certainly it is the most urgent.
The Republican leadership of Congress is attempting to legalize extraordinary rendition. "Extraordinary rendition" is the euphemism we use for sending terrorism suspects to countries that practice torture for interrogation. As one intelligence official described it in the Washington Post, "We don't kick the sh*t out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the sh*t out of them.”
The best known example of this is the case of Maher Arar. Arar, a Canadian citizen, was deported to Syria from JFK airport. In Syria he was beaten with electrical cables for two weeks, and then imprisoned in an underground cell for the better part of a year. Arar is probably innocent of any connection to terrorism.
As it stands now, "extraordinary rendition" is a clear violation of international law--specifically, the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading and Inhuman Treatment. U.S. law is less clear. We signed and ratified the Convention Against Torture, but we ratified it with some reservations. They might create a loophole that allows us to send a prisoner to Egypt or Syria or Jordan if we get "assurances" that they will not torture a prisoner--even if these assurances are false and we know they are false.
Last month Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Congressman, introduced a bill that would clearly outlaw extraordinary rendition. But Markey only has 22 cosponsors, and now the House leadership is trying to legalize torture outsourcing--and hide it in the bill implementing the 9/11 Commission Report.
These are excerpts from a press release one of Markey's staffers just emailed me:
The provision Rep. Markey referred to is contained in Section 3032 and 3033 of H.R. 10, the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004," introduced by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL). The provision would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue new regulations to exclude from the protection of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, any suspected terrorist - thereby allowing them to be deported or transferred to a country that may engage in torture. The provision would put the burden of proof on the person being deported or rendered to establish "by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured," would bar the courts from having jurisdiction to review the Secretary's regulations, and would free the Secretary to deport or remove terrorist suspects to any country in the world at will - even countries other than the person's home country or the country in which they were born. The provision would also apply retroactively.
This provision was not part of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, and the Commission actually called upon the U.S. to "offer an example of moral leadership in the world, committed to treat people humanely, abide by the rule of law, and be generous and caring to our neighbors." The Commission noted that "The United States should engage its friends to develop a common coalition approach to the detention and humane treatment of captured terrorists. New principles might draw upon Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions on the law of armed conflict. That article was specifically designed for those cases in which the usual laws of war did not apply. Its minimum standards are generally accepted throughout the world as customary international law." These standards prohibit the use of torture or other cruel or degrading treatment....
Rep. Markey said, "When the Republicans 9/11 bill is considered in the House, I intend to offer an amendment to strike the torture outsourcing provisions from the Republican bill and replace it with restrictions restoring international law as provided in my bill. It is absolutely disgraceful that the Republican Leadership has decided to load up the 9/11 Commission bill with legislative provisions that would legitimize torture, particularly when the Commission itself called for the U.S to move in exactly the opposite direction."
There is no possible way for a suspect being detained in secret to prove by "clear and convincing evidence" that he will be tortured if he is deported--especially when he may be deported to a country where has never been, and when the officials who want to deport him serve as judge, jury and executioner, and when there is never any judicial review. This bill will make what happened to Maher Arar perfectly legal, and guarantee that it will happen again.
Markey's staffer wrote to me that "this bill could be on the House floor as early as next week."
To everyone: Please, please, please write to your Representative and tell him (or her) to vote against the bill and/or for Markey's amendment.
To other bloggers: Please consider linking to this post. This bill will pass unless people know about it, and no newspaper has reported on it. The press coverage of the CBS memos showed that blogs can break a story and have an effect--and this story is about 100 times more important than Bill Burkett's shenanigans and CBS news’ negligence.
I'm talking to Republicans, conservatives and libertarians as well as to Democrats and liberals. I know that you are more decent than this, and that you do not approve of torture. Please prove me right, and do something about it. Republicans are the majority in Congress, and they are much more likely to listen to you than to any Democrat. The press is much more likely to report on the story if liberal and conservative blogs both cover it.
UPDATED: See this post for more details.
UPDATE 2 (Jan. 25 2005): UPDATE, January 2005 I noticed that this post is still bouncing around the web & some people seem to think the bill is still pending.
Long story short: The final version 9/11 Intelligence Reform Bill that was passed by Congress and signed into law did not legalize "extraordinary rendition" (a.k.a. "torture outsourcing.) The provisions on extraordinary rendition were, thankfully, deleted.
Unfortunately, the practice of extraordinary rendition continues. For a short introduction to the topic, you can read this article. (Note that it was written before the torture outsourcing language was completely deleted from the Intelligence bill.) For recent news stories on the subject do a google news search for:
--Khaled el Masri
Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales defended the legality of extraordinary rendition in his written testimony to the United States Senate (see Senator Durbin's question 12 & Gonzales' response, pp. 9-10.) Gonzales told Durbin that renditions were legal if we got "assurances" from the governments of Syria, Egypt, etc. that the prisoner we send to them would not be tortured.
In practice, these promises are worthless, and the U.S. government almost certainly knows they are worthless.
Maher Arar's lawsuit against the Justice Department is still pending in a Brooklyn federal court. The Bush administration recently petitioned to have the case dismissed because it would require the revelation of information that would threaten national security. I don't know whether they are likely to succeed.
If you are still willing to email or call your Congressmen and Senators, you could talk to your Senators about the Gonzales nomination, and ask both your Senators and House Reps to support Congressman Edward Markey's bill to clearly outlaw "extraordinary rendition". (Note: that's last year's version, I believe he has to introduce it again this year under a different bill number.) So far Markey's bill has the support of 24 House Democrats and 0 House Republicans, and there is no Senate version.